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The Aldine Aristotle, One of the Most Significant Publishing Ventures of the Fifteenth Century

1495 to 1498
Latin text with Greek translation of Aldus

Latin text with Greek translation of Aldus's dedicatory letter in Volume 1 of his Works of Aristotle. The remainder of the volume was entirely in Greek. From a copy in the Bayerische Staatsbibliothek.

Between November 1495 and June 1498 scholar printer Aldus Manutius (Teobaldo Mannucci) of Venice issued the first edition in the original Greek of Aristotle's Opera omnia. The set appeared in five thick quarto or small folio volumes, often bound in six. Assembling all of the texts was a major challenge for Aldus and his associates, requiring the help of scholars in different countries, and yet during the publication process Greek texts of both the Poetics and On Rhetoric, remained elusive. The editio princeps of Aristotle appeared at the close of a century that had witnessed a strong revival in Greek and humanistic studies; it was the first major Greek prose text, or collection of texts, to be reintroduced to the Western world in its original language by means of the printing press, and its success launched Aldus's efforts to produce further editiones principes of other Greek authors. In addition to the Aristotelian works, the five volumes contained works by Aristotle's successor Theophrastus, the commentator on Aristotle, Alexander of Aphrodisias, the neo-Platonic philosopher Porphyrius, and Philo of Alexandria (Philo Judaeus) along with the spurious De historia philosophia attributed to Galen.

" 'The Aldine Aristotle' remains, in terms of the labour involved and the magnificence of the result, the greatest publishing venture of the fifteenth century. The centrality of Aristotle in intellectual life of the time can hardly be overstressed. In Latin dress he lay at the heart of any university course in philosophy, as dominant at the end of the Quattrocento as in the preceding three hundred years. The humanist return ad fontes, to the original unobscured by imprecise translation and the encrustations of scholastic commentary, was the indispenable background to the edition. . . .

"Certain important Aristotelian works were as yet unfindable, notably the Rhetoric and the Poetics—Aldus was later to print the first Greek editions of both. The second volume is largely taken up with the works of Theophrastus, the successor of Aristotle in the Athenian Lyceum. . . . (Davies, Aldus Manutius, Printer and Publisher of Renaissance Venice (1999) 20-22).

ISTC No.: ia00959000. In March 2014 digital facsimiles of all five volumes were available from the Bayerische Staatsbibliothek. Volume 1 was available at this link.

Dibner, Heralds of Science, no. 73.  Carter & Muir, Printing and the Mind of Man (1967) no. 38. Renouard, Aldus Manutius, pp. 7-9. Hook & Norman, The Haskell F. Norman Library of Science and Medicine (1991) no. 70. 

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